The all male Shakespeare theatre group Propeller tackles one of the Bard’s
strangest tales with gusto.
There is no escaping the weaknesses and plot
holes of A Winter’s Tale; intense drama in the first three acts gives way to
comedy in the fourth. Director Edward Hall deals with this by making accentuating the differences even further.
The first three acts take
place in the sleek surroundings of Sicilia and Leontes accuses his wife of
adultery with the King of Bohemia in the candle lit and mirrored rooms of his
palace. Having an all male cast does not seem to add much to the play, and
the elegant Queen Hermoine might have been better played by a woman.
Leigh’s Paulina, however, is suitably defiant and is stronger than all
the sharp suited courtiers that surround the king as she makes her
case for the queen.
Where the production comes into its own is the
fourth act. Gone are the slick surroundings of Sicilia; Hall has instead
interpreted Bohemia as a mini Glastonbury. Tony Bell is a brilliant
Autolycus, a pickpocket who looks like an aging rock star in black leather
trousers and the shepherds really ham it up as West Country
bumpkins. The original dialogue is found to be full of innuendo and
never before have sheep featured so prominently in a Shakespeare play,
they even have their own band.
The contrast with the sleek Sicilia
gets a little too ridiculous at times, but perhaps this is the solution to
the problem of the play - if it doesn’t go together at least we can have a
bit of fun.